A West End Winter Wonderland

November 24, 2019 | By | Reply More

★★★★★    Christmas Cracker

St Giles’ Cathedral: Fri 20 November 2019
Review by Martin Gray

Christmas came early in aid of Make 2nds Count at St Giles’ Cathedral on Friday night.

The shops may be decorated with tinsel, Channel Five may be filling its afternoons with festive films, but it takes a lot to get me into the Christmas spirit before 1 December. It’s safe to say A West End Winter Wonderland did the trick.

Take legendary London leading ladies Kerry Ellis and Zoe Tyler, add a sprinkle of Scotland’s sweetheart Tom Urie, throw in two teenage talents and a gaggle of moppets in Santa hats, wrap them in the spiritually uplifting grandeur of St Giles’ Cathedral and bang, it may as well be Christmas Eve.

Kerry Ellis. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography.

The one-off concert was organised by charity Make 2nds Count, which raises awareness of secondary breast cancer, which is – currently – always terminal. The charity aims to change that by raising funds for research into the condition. Set up by Lisa and Euan Fleming after Lisa was diagnosed in 2017, it has so far raised more than £300,000 to help find a cure for the disease which is cutting short the lives of around 1000 women and men every month.

A West End Winter Wonderland, though, was no sombre affair. Host Urie – best-known as River City’s Big Bob and recently seen in BBC drama Guilt – kicked things off with a rousing rendition of Anthem from Chess, followed by a delightful I Have Confidence from The Sound of Music.

Strong, sweet presence

It turns out that the young Urie wanted little more than to sing Julie Andrews songs, as the evening also saw him treat us to singalong versions of Edelweiss and, from Mary Poppins, Let’s Go Fly A Kite. Urie is a strong, sweet presence with a lovely voice, the perfect link man/secret weapon.

Extra treats were brought by Sophie Tonner, 13, from Johnstone, and Lucy Gorman, 16, from Cambuslang, winners of Make 2nds Count’s Xmas Factor contest, who sang their hearts out, the former on She Used to be Mine (Waitress), the latter with Do They Know It’s Christmas?.

Then there were the kiddies of Stagecoach Theatre Arts School, who gathered on stage to warm hearts with the likes of Winter Wonderland and, from Rent, Seasons of Love.

Dazzling

As for the top-billed talent, Tyler and Ellis brought their own brand of musical magic to the stage. Dazzling in fantastic frocks – glitter, sequins, velvet, they brought the glamour – they showed why they’re firm favourites with West End audiences.

The Stagecoach Choir. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography.

Tyler, well-known to TV audiences as a judge on Any Dream Will Do and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, demonstrated the strength and clarity of her voice on the likes of Over the Rainbow (the version from the musical of the same name telling the story of Eva Cassidy), Winner Takes It All, I Dreamed a Dream, I Don’t Know How To Love Him and, from La Cage Aux Folles, I Am What I Am. Best of all was Tyler’s Somewhere from West Side Story, an emotionally powerful reading that raised the rafters.

Kerry Ellis joined Tyler for the second Chess move of the night, producing an outstanding rendition of I Know Him So Well. Wasn’t it good? Oh, so good.

Warm-toned

Kerry Ellis had been a standout performer for years before Wicked came along, but it was her bewitching turn as green girl Elphaba that cemented her in West End – and indeed, Broadway – hearts. While there are no Christmas songs in Wicked, no one could have been disappointed by her Defying Gravity, its reimagined arrangement perfectly played by musical director Derek Allan.

Zoe Tyler. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography.

Other offerings from the warm-toned Ellis included This is Me from The Greatest Showman, Queen’s Somebody To Love and Joni Mitchell’s melancholic River.

But it was another Wicked song that brought the most spine-tingling moment of the night, as Ellis invited Lisa Fleming on stage for the duet For Good. Fleming proved the perfect partner for Ellis, her tone and technique well up to the job… a standing ovation well earned!

Produced by Peter Ferguson, A West End Winter Wonderland was, from start to finish, a singular seasonal sensation, spreading cheer along with an important message.

Listings and Links

Make 2nds Count website: www.make2ndscount.co.uk
Facebook: @Make2ndsCount.
Twitter: @Make2ndsCount
Instagram: @make2ndscount

Kerry Ellis is returning to Edinburgh twice in the near future, both times to play the Usher Hall:

Now That’s What I Call Christmas
Usher Hall, Lothian Road, EH1 2EA
Saturday 21 December 2019
Evening: 7.30pm.
The biggest selling festive album of all time – Live on stage with Capital Voices choir and guest singer Kerry Ellis.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Queen Machine Symphonic
Usher Hall, Lothian Road, EH1 2EA
Wednesday 15 April 2020
Evening: 7.30pm.
See preview: Kerry Ellis for Edinburgh.
Kerry Ellis joins Scandinavian tribute stars Queen Machine for a fully orchestrated UK tour.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Derek Allan, Kerry Ellis, Lisa Fleming, Zoe Tyler and Tom Urie. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography.

ENDS

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